Plagiarism in the age of the web: Daily Mail caught red handed taking from the New York Times

Roy Greenslade has highlighted a case of blatant plagiarism as the Daily Mail is caught red handed ripping off a long piece about how the rise of consumer electronic devices could cause plane crashes.

The New York Times piece, by Christine Negroni, quotes half a dozen sources and every single one appears in the story by Mail hack Liz Thomas including people with distinctive names such as Dinkar Mokadam, of the Association of Flight Attendants. Like no one is going to spot that, right?

It is one of the most obvious and high profile cases of plagiarism that I’ve seen in years. Not just that but it is the second biggest newspaper on the web stealing from the biggest.

In the age of the web and social media there is little chance that such work as this will not be found out. Besides it is always a pleasure (to many) to highlight something awful about the Daily Mail.

The cut and paste effort by the Daily Mail has been highlighted, as Greenslade points out, by a number of high profile US sites with Jim Romenesko on Poynter suggesting someone get on the blower and call the plagiarism police on the Daily Mail while The New York Observer’s Media Mob (Daily Mail plagiarises the New York Times) says it was going to highlight every borrow made by the Daily Mail’s Thomas, but there was a problem with that…

“We were going to go through and pull out all of the verbatim passages, so you don’t have to toggle between tabs as you relish giving Thomas a mental shaming, but there were too many. Total cut and paste job.”

Plenty of borrowing goes on these days or content scraping as it is called and this has always been a huge issue for newspapers who are concerned that their content is taken without payment or recognition.

In 2009 a piece in the New York Times pointed the finger at Silicon Alley Insider. In that incident SAI “quoted” a quarter of a column by Peggy Noonan’s from the Wall Street Journal with a line a the end: “We thank Dow Jones in advance for allowing us to bring it to you”.

The “in advance” bit is interesting as publishers don’t explicitly give permission, but then they don’t expect you to brazenly reprint large chunks either.

Another example is that of Washington Post writer Ian Shapira. In a piece titled ‘The Death of Journalism (Gawker Edition)’ he wrote about how an article of his  (‘Guru Explains Gens X, Y, Boomer To One Another’) was taken by Gawker.

He explained that despite his long interview with the coach, his 3,000 words of notes and 1,500 word finished piece he was flattered to have Gawker blog and link to his piece. But then having spoke to his boss he slowly realised that he’d been had. Or more precisely, he’d been blogged.

“Gawker’s story featured several quotations from the coach and a client, and neatly distilled Loehr’s biography — information entirely plucked from my piece. I was flattered. But when I told my editor, he wrote back: They stole your story. Where’s your outrage, man?” The more I toggled between my editor’s e-mail and the eight-paragraph Gawker item, the angrier I got, and the more disenchanted I became with the journalism business. I enjoy reading Gawker and the growing number of news sites like it — the Huffington Post, the Daily Beast and others — but lately they’re making me even more nervous about my precarious career as a newspaper reporter who enjoys, at least for the time being, a salary, a 401(k) (pension plan) and health insurance.”